Littleton, Colorado: Lewis and Roth (1995)
337 pages, paperback, $14.95
There are horrendous pressures on churches today to conform to the worldwide, feminist spirit and its ruthless eradication of all male-female distinctions within the church. Part of the church growth movement, in its obsession with bigness and numbers, preaches giving as much power and authority as possible to one person. Multitudes of churches are oblivious to the moral and spiritual qualifications outlined in the New Testament for church shepherds. Worldly attitudes of bigness, power and self-promotion, and success in "the ministry" are deeply ingrained in the minds of too many church leaders (pp.11-12).
This outlines part of the need to restore to the church a biblically qualified leadership, as indicated in the book's subtitle. Strauch's main contention is that the New Testament always speaks of plurality of qualified male elders who lead the church. There is no hierarchy of clergy and laity, but the salaried pastor(s) and those serving at parity are on the same level. Pastor, elder, and overseer are interchangeable terms in the New Testament.
This revised version of Strauch's book is a wonderful improvement on a good idea. Even if you have a copy of the first edition you will want this update. He has enriched this revision with more extensive sources, new material, a new book structure, and the addition of helpful indices.
The book is laid out in a very straightforward manner and will be very usable by most people in your church. It is not a difficult read, and is a very clear discussion of the biblical basis for a plurality of elders, a thorough exposition of the key texts, and the practical way in which it is to be worked out in the church. Even those who may not agree with this form of church government will have a difficult time dismissing Strauch's argument without dismissing the text of Scripture. Those who already have some form of elders may find much help and needed improvement to their present understanding.
This is the real strength of this book. It is a thorough, yet nontechnical, exposition of all of the relevant texts of Scripture, with sound application along the way. He also adds weight to his argument with many voices from the past and present (many who speak from a Reformed perspective).
Strauch wrote in his introduction, "Precious truths, no doubt, still await discovery" (p.12). The one area in which I would like to see more practical steps fleshed out is in the relationship between the resident or full-time elder(s) and the men who are not in salaried positions as elders. There could be a new chapter devoted to detailing more of this special role and its relationship with the other elders. The book is weighted more toward elders who do not devote themselves to preaching and teaching as full-time work.
It would also be helpful to have an appendix on the Brethren movement in order to distinguish Strauch's view more dearly from Brethrenism. Some might dismiss Strauch on the basis that it sounds too "Brethren."
I also recommend that Strauch's newly revised twelve-session workbook be used in conjunction with the book. This is excellent material for training men to serve well in the role of elder. I am convinced that a plurality of qualified elders is essential for a long-term healthy congregation. The longer I am in the ministry, the wisdom of this biblical approach shows itself again and again. Strauch has done a great service for the church with this work, and I pray that many will take up his "urgent call."
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